Violence on the streets is out of control and there seems to be no end in sight. If you haven’t noticed, it could be – because you’re not Black. In Toronto, Black youth are shooting each other in record numbers and some of them are also being killed by the POLICE. If you can’t rely on the police to protect you, who else do you turn to? I am not Black but my granddaughter is half Black and racism is a huge concern for me. Not as a grandfather to a Black granddaughter, but as a Canadian and human being that expects more from his country and its good people. We are living in the 21st Century but still have 19th Century problems – and it has to change.
If you’re a music artist or filmmaker, you have your podium and your megaphone to say something about injustice, abuse of power, social issues or something positive that unites us all. Music is a powerful tool that Hip-Hop artist, JAIR DYNAST knows all too well. Living in Toronto, JAIR DYNAST has just released his new single ‘AT RISK’ this week. The song is pulled from the headlines & tackles the failings of societies choices as well as those of the artist. The multi-talented artist is known for making statements with his music. DYNAST has earned an ‘Album of the Year’ nod from RapReviews.com and his single, ‘Can’t Wait’ became the theme song for a 13-part Miniseries ‘MAKE SOME NOISE’ on CBC.
After the successful release of DYNAST’s last single, PROFILING following the death of GEORGE FLOYD, the artist, songwriter & producer decided to take “AT RISK” deeper and make it raw and personal. AT RISK speaks to the life & death of a young black man and the agonizing apology to his mother for not returning home.
DYNAST is aware that his platform comes with responsibility and he is using it wisely. Too often the headlines are louder than the accomplishments of his community. DYNAST believes in the importance of promoting and praising that community & the contributions Black people have made to society. He loves his community and believes that change is possible if we can all work together to save the youth, who are our future.
JAIR DYNAST is a father of 2 and was homeschooling when I caught up to him in his Toronto home. We had a great talk about the impact his music is having and how he wants to reach out to his community and others to collaborate on events or music to unite people, much like the late great Bob Marley did with his music. Can we give peace a chance?
HNM “I know that you had a basketball scholarship in Texas that you had to give up, due to a heart condition. Has it improved since?”
JAIR “No, unfortunately it’s something that I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life. Currently, I have an ICD in my chest that they put in 4 – 5 years ago, where they also inserted a pacemaker & defibrillator, because my heart has a tendency to go really fast – which could result in a stoppage. This device is designed to slow my heart down if it does start to go too fast, and if for some chance my heart does stop, it’s supposed to give me a shock to get it going again.”
HNM “With your new song At Risk, it was gun violence and violence against Black people from police that prompted you to write it. Who are you sending a message to?”
JAIR “It does tie into the obvious situation of violence against Black people from cops but it also ties into the violence we commit against ourselves. With the situation of gun violence in Toronto, that’s the Black youth that’s shooting each other over… a rival gang, a rival area or it could be two people that were once friends and now have a beef with each other and they want to solve it through physical violence. The song AT RISK touches on all of that, as well as our role as individuals involved in it – it also touches on the role of society that we’ve come up in. Growing up as a young Black man, you feel like everyone’s against you and you only feel supported and embraced when you’re playing basketball, in music or are some kind of entertainer. When it comes to academics, I never really felt that support. Having gone through all those experiences is where the song came from. I wanted to get people thinking and if you have an opportunity to reach people – you might want to try and say something that could benefit the next generation.”
HNM “Do you think the youth appreciate the music more, coming from someone that’s lived it and been through the same experiences?”
JAIR “Yes, I think so. I’ve been very fortunate as a basketball coach because it puts you in another demographic space that allows you to see it. Kids will tell you that they live where I used to live, or they used to live in the same place and moved. They could appreciate a guy like me that looks like them, doing what I do. I told them, in terms of sports, there are so many aspects of it outside of competing, that are professional and fulfilling, and can provide a good income. When it comes to music, it’s the same thing – hearing it from someone that’s been through it and telling them some of the stuff they might be going through at that moment; to make them understand that there’s another option.”
HNM “Do you coach high school basketball?”
JAIR “I coach on many different levels, from ages 4 up to grade 12. I’m fortunate, I work with a company that has a facility owned by the Raptors that facilitates inner city youth to come in and use the space. There’s a great basketball court but there’s also other sports they can try, like hockey or volleyball. I’ve been lucky to work from that side of things, as well as seeing things from that view. My music has also been a great way to reach kids and during Black History month, I was invited to the schools to perform and talk to the kids about some lesser known Black inventors/innovators and it’s been great to be able to reach out to my community through music and my job as a basketball coach.”
HNM “When you began your music career, did you immediately recognize the power of using music to promote change?”
JAIR “I think I did. I always gravitated toward artists like Nas, The Roots and Outkast because they were doing that, making statements on what was happening in their own communities. When I started doing Hip Hop, I thought that’s what it was all about, so I thought it was only right that I follow in their footsteps. I do have other songs that are more fun/party music, but I definitely recognize that it’s a platform to speak on subjects and be an edutainer. I like both aspects of it and once I picked up on it – I ran with it.”
HNM “Who inspires you in music?”
JAIR “I mentioned Outkast, Nas and The Roots but even earlier, there was Bob Marley. He’s always had a universal message of love and been able to bring a niche genre to a huge audience with his sound… and that’s always been a dream of mine. If we’re going to find solutions, we need to welcome outside help from the community and it has to be a collective effort from people outside the community offering other levels of support that provide other options, unlike the ones that lead you down the wrong path.”
HNM “Have you ever considered collaborating with other artists on an event or song?”
JAIR “It’s funny, I was doing an interview last week with some of the artists that collaborated on ‘WISH I COULD’, a song against gun violence. We all discussed coming together on another track or another project – which I would be 100 percent supportive of. A collective voice on some projects or a couple of events could go a long way and be very beneficial for getting the word out there.”
HNM “Where did you record AT RISK?”
JAIR “I actually recorded it in my home studio; actually, all of the music I’ve made has been recorded in my home studio. When I lived with my mom and step-dad, my step-dad would get annoyed with my music, so we went to Home Depot and came home with some material to build a small home studio with sound proofing. It was really small and we could only fit 3 people inside – with one in the recording booth and the other 2 people in the control area; everyone else was outside. If we were recording instruments, you’d have to record them separately. Most of the music I produce and create is on keyboards, so it’s fairly easy. Once I moved out of my moms, I brought all my equipment with me and continued to work on my music. I’d only go to big recording studios to do mastering.”
HNM “You play the keyboards?”
JAIR “I’m not a keyboardist, I’m pretty much self-taught, but I wrote the lyrics, the music and put together everything with Pro-tools. Most of the music is generated from my Yamaha keyboard and I might take a sample here and there of an instrument and put it into a sequence – that’s basically how I put together my music.”
HNM “What is your music process like? Do you have the lyrics first or create the music before that?”
JAIR “That’s a good question, I think it can be a combination. With the song, PROFILING – I made the music first. I had found a guitar sample that I liked, I then began playing the notes with the guitar, then built the drum pattern all before writing the lyrics for it. With AT RISK, I believe it was the same thing, I created the music first. The melody came to me for the chorus… It’s always about the chorus. The chorus dictates the topic and I go from there. I’ve had other songs though, where I’ve had the melody in my head and I’ll sit down and make the music based on that.”
HNM “How often do you create music? Do you have a regiment, where you create once a month or is it only when you’re inspired?”
JAIR “I just got back into the music again, thanks to this pandemic. Since my kids came along 6-7 years ago, I’ve taken time off to focus on them and their needs. Since my son came along, I don’t think my wife changed a diaper for an entire year. My wife went back to work and I watched my son take his first steps. I would coach in the evenings and had put music on the backburner… then the pandemic happened. I had started going through music on my computer and found these songs that I recorded 10 years ago but it speaks to what’s happening right now – so I put it out. It resonates with today’s issues and maybe more people might want to hear it.”
HNM “I also wanted to ask you about your song CAN’T WAIT, that’s being used in the 13- part mini-series, MAKE SOME NOISE on CBC. How did that happen?”
JAIR “They had originally put out a call, looking for a song that would match the theme of the show, which was slightly politically directed toward the youth, which is what they were looking for, a song that spoke to them. I sat down and wrote ‘CAN’T WAIT, speaking directly to the topic and they really liked it.”
HNM “You got a Rap Review nod, for Album of the Year at rapreviews.com?”
JAIR “That was for my first album that I released as a solo artist. I then released my second album VIALENCE, which was an acronym. It stood for Vicious Ignorance Amounts to Little Except Negative Consequences through Expression. It’s a big mouthful, but back in the day I thought it was pretty cool. The writer for Rap Reviews Adam Bernard, had placed it as 1 of the top 10 albums he had heard that year. It was quite a blessing to receive that recognition.”
JAIR DYNAST is trying to curve violence one song at a time but he needs your help and the rest of Toronto to spread that message. Violence from racism or Black youth killing each other for mundane reasons, should be enough to make us all want to help. If we can come together to help stop the spread of Covid-19, then we can take those lessons and apply it to prevent more senseless shootings in Toronto. Come on People, Come Together… Right Now – Over Me!
If you’d like to follow Jair Dynast and his music, follow the links.